Friday, 6 June 2008

Rehumanising the workplace / BT

Contrasting with the Microsoft case study, this was an example of social media being introduced ‘under the radar’.

I’d come across the case study earlier on Melcrum's blog and have also subscribed to Richard's.

The case study means quite a lot to me because of some earlier involvement in BT, which included writing some content on performance management for their intranet. I also had several conversations with Margaret Savage while she was at BT about liberating employees from over controlling managers – social media seems to have been one way that BT has been achieving this. (I would have said achieved if it wasn’t for the 20 calls and 3 different attempts to get a BT phone line installed recently)

BT have 160,000 active users on BTpedia and 215,000 different people have published content. They have had to give 100% access because all BT’s processses and systems are online and this includes the whole extended enterprise – in fact there are more contractors than employees on the intranet. So it has been a successful initiative to democratise communication.

I think one of the things that has made this so successful is Richard’s belief that it’s all about participation. In his view, and in mine, social media is about an ongoing dialogue, about creating a conversation rather than channels.

Richard explained that people tend to shut down facets of their personality when they put their suit on – to feel that they can’t say what they don’t like – to have to sit on their hands – that we expect people to be totally different at work. Social media rehumanises the workplace. People have personality – why can’t they have personality at work? What does it matter if people talk about their dog?

I thought this was a great point, that reinforced some of those made by Ethan at IBM - it doesn't matter if social media is used for personal information as this is important and part of the business too.

And social media isn't about managing, but facilitating communications. Tobias Huebscher from eBay argued that content is still key. But social meda shouldn't be about pushing content. Even a CEO blog isn't really about communicating messages but connecting him or her with their employees. I think IBM, Microsoft and BT have been so succesful in implementing social media because of their understanding of this point.